Sunday, March 1, 2015

How to Draw a Portrait (Successfully)

I am not a drawer. I have always said that. I pride myself on being a painter and saying "you don't need to know how to draw to paint". At least not to paint photorealistic. Though I do agree it makes it easier to paint if you have an understanding of how to draw, and of course if you can draw well I am sure that would help too. But I say this because I am not a good drawer but I can paint. However I have always wanted to improve my drawing skills...and like they say, practice makes perfect. Just as they say millage on the brush will help improve your painting skills so would millage with a pencil. So in 2014 I decided I would dedicate more time to writing/drawing my ideas in my visual diary. AND an opportunity to attend a portrait drawing workshop with a well known portrait drawer, Ray Coffey, came up so I grabbed the opportunity.

I am one of those that have said 'I never thought I could draw like that' or draw 'realistically'. And I walked away from Ray's workshop saying "wow I did that"! When you are given the right books, or watch the right tutorials or even given the right guidance such as from a master of their craft at a workshop, it is those simple tips and tricks which can make that difference.

Surprisingly enough the method was simple and one I use myself -the grid method. This isn't the only way to approach drawing but this is the way Ray showed us in his workshop. This idea of grid method to drawing/sketch up your image, and blocking in greyscale is a way to approach painting too (See How to Paint a Rose). I may even try my hand at painting the Portrait I did in the workshop. See the step-by-step drawing approach below:

  • Grey toned paper
  • Charcoal pencils and white
  • Sharpener
  • Paper Stump
  • Kneadable Rubber
  • Greyscale photo to work from

Step 1: Using the photo provided we grided up our page and chose the main tonal areas to outline

Step 2: Get rid of the grid using the kneadable rubber (be sure to check proportions etc first)

Step 3: Start blocking in the darkest darks and pushing in the charcoal with your finger or paper stump to smooth it out

Step 4: Start adding detail and using the white to highlight -remember to check for accuracy. 

Step 5: Final touches and finish. Use your kneadable rubber or a cut off sliver of hard rubber to pick up highlights. Use a sharp white charcoal pencil for fine detail.

Finished Portrait

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